BBC details plans for combined 24-hour news operation

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After a license fee freeze that forced it to propose broad cuts, the BBC is now detailing plans for the future of its 24-hour news operations.

The crux of the changes included merging the 24-hour BBC News Channel, which airs in the U.K., with BBC World News.

While the two channels already simulcast content during certain parts of the day, the change will eliminate them as separate entities.

BBC News is available ad-free in the U.K. thanks to a yearly fee that any household receiving a TV signal pays, which is then passed along to become most of BBC’s operating budget.

BBC World News, however, is operated by the for-profit arm of the broadcaster, which produces and distributes programming around the globe, including in markets not covered by the license fee and therefore can show ads and charge other fees to generate revenue.

The new offering, which will take on the BBC News name, is expected to launch in April 2023.

Plans also call for London to handle programming during the daytime hours in that time zone, with bureaus in Washington, D.C. and Singapore taking over during daytime hours in their respective time zones.

The BBC had previously announced that up to 1,000 people could lose their jobs across its operations due to the license freeze and those cuts are expected to affect the new 24-hour news offering as well.

Initial reports suggest there will be a net loss in jobs within the division, but that some roles will also move from one location to another. 70 jobs will be cut in London related to the change, though 20 new positions will open in Washington.

The BBC said that the U.K. and world feeds will continue to be different during some parts of the day, including some programming meant only for either U.K. or international audiences.

The international feed of BBC News will presumably continue to feature advertising, which could effectively “cover” portions of the programming seen in the U.K. because BBC cannot show advertising there as part of its charter.

One possible approach would be to offer segments geared toward U.K. audiences during international commercial breaks or use time-shifting technology to change how segments are aired.

BBC also plans to launch new programming on the new BBC News offering, including outside of London, though exact plans were not announced.

In many ways, the BBC News and BBC World News channels were already headed in this direction. The COVID-19 pandemic lead to the two channels increasing the practice of simulcasting as a way to both reduce costs and the need for staff to work in person.

Some of these plans could change if the broadcaster is not able to reach agreements with its various trade unions that could be affected by the changes.